Another panel we had at the Syfy Digital Press Tour was on the upcoming U.S. version of Being Human, a currently popular British television program about a a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf living together. The U.S. version is set in Boston (albeit filmed in Montreal, where the “old town” feel is similar), and features vampire “Aidan” (Sam Witwer), werewolf “Josh” (Sam Huntington) and ghost “Sally” (Meaghan Rath) – as they struggle to hide their dark secrets from the world, while helping each other navigate the complexities of living double lives and trying to be human. Mark Pellegrino plays Aidan’s charismatic but menacing vampire mentor “Bishop” (Pelligrino). Adam Kane (The Mentalist, Heroes) is Director and Co-Executive Producer with Executive Producer Michael Prupas (The Kennedys, Pillars of the Earth) and husband and wife Executive Producers/Writers Jeremy Carver (Supernatural) and Anna Fricke (Men in Trees, Everwood). Muse Entertainment is producing 13 1-hour episodes for Syfy.
I spoke briefly about about it before from our dinner with Mark Stern, the Executive VP of Original Programming at Syfy, and one of the things he mentioned was they they have a great cast. Here we met them – and if the chemistry we saw on the stage translates on to the screen, then he’s right – he’s got an awesome cast and he’s already got another viewer eagerly awaiting the premiere (Being Human will begin in January 2011).
So, how will the cast develop their characters independently of the British show?
“Well, we’ve – we haven’t watched that much of the British one,” said Rath. “I watched a couple of them during the audition process just to get an idea of what the tone was for the show. But since we started, they don’t want us to watch any – anything so we have this fresh – we’re bringing something new to it. But we definitely have some really big shoes to fill because those guys are amazing, and it’s such a smart, original show.”
“Yeah, you can only really hope that whatever we end up doing honors what they’ve done and brings a bigger audience to them,” added Witwer. “And in turn perhaps their audience supplements ours, and it’s a big happy family. That’s the hope.”
Huntington also added, “It’s the circle of television…Yeah, I’m intimidated. I’m not kidding, like full on. I’ve seen a little bit of the British show and think the world of it and think the world of Russell Tovey, who plays the werewolf on the British show. So I’m — I just want to honor that and, like, obviously try and bring something different and new to it to respect him and what he does. So yeah, I’m a little — I just — but at the end of the day, I know what we’re doing is fantastic. So I’m not scared.”
“And I’ve only seen one episode.”, said Witwer. “When I was getting ready to audition, I watched one episode. And when I got the notion that I wanted to do this project, I knew I had to stop watching so I wouldn’t unintentionally mimic what Aidan Turner is doing, which I thought was absolutely correct. So I’m like, ‘I need to forget what this wonderful actor is doing.’ But I do love the idea that my character is named after him, so that’s kind of cool.”
Have they met their counterparts? “No, never,” said Rath. “Can’t wait,” according to Huntington, but Rath said, “Might be awkward.” “It’s not going to be awkward. It’s going to be awesome!”, Huntington retorted. Witwer thinks they should fight. “Just fight them. Write that down,” Huntington said. But it was all in jest. “Because we owe them a debt of gratitude in a big way,” according to Witwer.
Rath added, “And what we hope is that fans of the British one will be fans of ours and fans of ours will be fans of the British one…and that we all just sort of help each other.”
How will the show differ?
“Having only seen one episode, hard to say,” says Witwer. “But what we can say is that what they did in six episodes for their first season, we have 13 to go through that sort of — that storyline. So there’s a lot of things that we’re doing that they did not do…in the beginning of the first episode, I inadvertently turn a girl into a vampire. Hey, guys, you can’t blame me. She’s beautiful. But that character is a lot larger of a character and has much more influence on my character than the British version. She’s like a legitimate love interest, whereas in the British version, from what I understand, it’s not quite that way. So there’s a lot of things that where we’ll take maybe an idea that they have and expand it into entire plotlines. And of course, there are other things that go in completely different directions because they didn’t have the screen time.”
“Yeah, my sister is a character on the show, on our show, which is not in the British series,” added Huntington. “And so that helps me, the character of Josh, kind of — it helps the audience kind of understand his journey. And it informs who he is, and I think it’s a really, really nice element. And the actor who plays — the actress who plays my sister, Alison Louder, is a tremendously talented girl. And yeah, so that’s a different element. That actually kind of is through the entire season.”
“And then I think for ours, in our version, we get to see a lot more of these characters’ backstories and how they became the way they are,” said Rath. “So we have a lot more time to develop these people than the British one had.”
They are also going to follow the “rules” of the characters very closely, where the British show was more loose, especially around Rath’s ghost character. After Witwer high-fived Rath on stage, he said, “She’s not used to, actually, people being able to touch her. We’ll be shooting scenes, and we will always be mindful to not — we can’t touch her in any way. So we’ll just be kind of sitting next to each other, and our shoulders will brush. ‘Cut.'”
“And it’s a complex I’ve brought into my normal life,” Rath said. “Anytime anyone touches me, I’m just like, ‘Oh, God, no.'” And to emphasize the fact that ghost wouldn’t make a dent in, say, a couch – they have special pillows, “Sally’s Hard Pillows”, or SHPs. “So anytime I’m sitting on a couch or lying on a bed, it’s all rigged that it’s literally cement. It’s so hard. And because Sally can’t make a dent in anything because she just floats on top of things, which is so uncomfortable.”
What about fans that aren’t receptive to remaking a popular show?
“I’m going to make them feel really uncomfortable,” joked Huntington. “I’m going to throw it right back at them and be like, ‘Those pants don’t match that shirt.’ Make them feel really self-conscious. I guarantee you they’ll turn right around and walk away.”
Witwer compared against Battlestar Galactica. “For example, no one talks about anymore that when Battlestar came on, that there was this huge fan backlash because Starbuck was a girl and all this crap. No one really talks about that anymore. Now we just remember, ‘Oh, everyone loved Battlestar.’ It’s like, ‘No. No, we didn’t. They didn’t.’ So I’m fully prepared for whatever they want to throw at us. The fact of the matter is what we’re doing, I believe, having seen two episodes, is very good.”
All throughout the the panel, the cast joked and interacted and generally had fun. When asked about the contemporary portrayal of the archetypes as being sexy (and, dare I say, “sparkly” 🙂 ), and whether there would be more “shirtless” shots of the guys, Rath said, “These two guys are so sexy. It’s going to blow your mind.” Huntington piped in, “Yeah. I’m described that way all the time….Dude, literally I am a perfect specimen of man.”
To be honest, this wasn’t the kind of show I’m typically interest in, and the track record of fast-track remakes of British shows is not good. But after talking with Mark and meeting the cast, I can say I’m genuinely excited for the potential of this show to step outside the bounds of what exists and become it’s own.